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Opinions

The Middle District of Pennsylvania offers a database of opinions for the years 1999 to present, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Judge Yvette Kane

This putative class action is brought by three plaintiffs, Frank Robert Chester, Zachary Wilson, and Donald Hardcastle (“Plaintiffs”), each of whom has been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs allege that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s practice of executing condemned prisoners by means of lethal injection subjects them to an unnecessary risk of excruciating pain and suffering and therefore violates Plaintiffs’ rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and to due process of law under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to enjoin Defendants from executing Plaintiffs by lethal injection as currently authorized and implemented by the Commonwealth.

On January 23, 2009, plaintiff Thomas Meros, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against defendant Mark Dows. (Doc. No. 1-1). Plaintiff alleges Defendant Dows, the director of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners (“PBLE”), violated his due process and equal protection rights by denying him admission to the Pennsylvania bar. Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, monetary damages and all other relief the court deems appropriate. Id.

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

This multidistrict matter arises from defendants’ alleged attempts to fix prices for chocolate confectionary products in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. Plaintiffs contend that defendants, who control approximately 75% of the U.S. chocolate candy market, conspired to inflate prices artificially and reaped windfall profits as a result of several coordinated price increases implemented between 2002 and 2007.
 
All defendants filed motions to dismiss (Docs. 464, 469, 476) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A subset of defendants comprised of Cadbury plc, Cadbury Holdings Ltd. (“Cadbury Holdings”), Mars Canada, Inc. (“Mars Canada”), Nestlé S.A., and Nestlé Canada, Inc. (“Nestlé Canada”) also challenged the court’s personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2). (See Docs. 466, 471, 473, 474.) These defendants (hereinafter collectively “the Rule 12(b)(2) defendants”) allege that they do not engage in business in the United States, maintain no presence here, and are therefore beyond the court’s jurisdictional ken. On March 3, 2009, the court deferred ruling on these issues and granted plaintiffs a period of limited discovery to develop a factual basis for jurisdiction over the Rule 12(b)(2) defendants. See In re Chocolate Confectionary Antitrust Litig. (Chocolate I), 602 F. Supp. 2d 538, 573-74, 577 (M.D. Pa. 2009). Discovery closed on April 24, 2009, and all parties to the Rule 12(b)(2) motions submitted supplemental briefs and accompanying exhibits. For the reasons that follow, the jurisdictional motions of Mars Canada, Nestlé S.A., and Nestlé Canada will be granted; the motions filed by Cadbury plc and Cadbury Holdings will be denied.

Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 2) for preliminary injunction filed by plaintiff Gene Stilp (“Stilp”). Stilp seeks to enjoin enforcement of § 1108(k) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, 65 PA. CONS. STAT. § 1108(k), which prohibits disclosure by any person of information relating to an ethics complaint, preliminary inquiry, investigation, hearing, or petition for reconsideration that is pending before the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on April 1, 2009,1 after which the parties submitted additional briefing, (see Docs. 18, 20). For the reasons that follow, the motion for preliminary injunction will be granted in part and denied in part.

A jury trial was held in the above-captioned matter from June 8 through June 23, 2009. In advance of jury selection, defendant Jaime Cardenas-Borbon (Doc. 1148) submitted a request (Doc. 1148) to waive his right to a jury and have his case adjudicated in a bench trial. The court denied the request on the record during the first day of trial after conducting a colloquy with Borbon and his counsel regarding the reasons underlying his request. The court has prepared the instant memorandum to provide further explanation for denial of Borbon’s request.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a jury trial; however, there is no concomitant right to waive trial by jury and obtain a bench proceeding.

Presently before the court is defendants’ motion (Doc. 588) to certify an interlocutory appeal from the memorandum and order of court (Doc. 582) dated March 4, 2009 (hereinafter “the March 4 Memorandum”). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

Plaintiff Donna Dull brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants used excessive force to effectuate her arrest in spring 2005. Her daughter, plaintiff Holly Dull, who was arrested at the same time, advances § 1983 claims for unlawful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. Plaintiffs also maintain claims for municipal and supervisory liability and seek redress under state tort law. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 30). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

Judge John E. Jones III

This matter is before the Court in what the respondents correctly note is a rather unique procedural posture. Before the Court are the Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Complaint for Declaratory Relief (Doc. 9) of petitioners Alexander Alli and Elliot Grenade as well as the petitioners’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 27) and Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 17). By this Memorandum and Order, the Court does not finally resolve the petitioners’ claims, but sets forth its initial legal holdings and establishes a framework for additional proceedings.

This matter is before the Court on the defendant Alexander Sylvester’s objection to presentence investigation report’s classification of him as a career offender and his motion for a downward departure under the Sentencing Guidelines based on his conditions of confinement pending trial. For the reasons set forth below, Sylvester’s objection will be overruled and his motion will be denied.

Judge Malachy E. Mannion

During state court criminal proceedings in Monroe County involving sentencing issues, plaintiff allegedly declined to speak to his attorney and declined to make certain information known to him because a private consultation area was not available for their use. Plaintiff was unwilling to speak in ear shot of other persons (including sheriffs and other inmates) and supposedly risk loss of his attorney-client privilege and other confidences. Plaintiff further alleges that in consequence of the state denying him access to private consultation facilities (at the county courthouse), in conjunction with his own concomitant refusal to be fully forthcoming with his attorney in those circumstances, he was sentenced to "a longer period of incarceration because of the facts I was unable to relay to [my attorney] concerning my prior record score." Doc. No. 44 at 2-3. Plaintiff argues that the defendants' failure or refusal to provide (what he terms) an adequate private consultation area is a denial of his due process rights and First Amendment right to petition. See Amended Compl. at 3. (Doc. No. 28.) The operative complaint, i.e., the Amended Complaint, is brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983. In his proposed (second) Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks to add a claim for punitive damages, and additionally seeks to add Wieslaw T. Niemoczynski, Chief Public Defender of the Monroe County Public Defenders Office, as a defendant.

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